February 15, 2010

Maybe It's Me: I Love Myself. I think I'm Awesome., or, A Reflection on Singles Awareness Day

I always thought the saying “you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else” was just some nutty psycho-babble created by a broken-hearted sap who’d read one too many self-help books in his desperate attempt for some kind of balm for his aching soul.

The entire idea seemed both selfish and self-righteous to me: that I don’t know or understand how to love until I know, understand, and love myself first. Isn’t the whole concept behind the act of loving and being loved altruistic in nature? The entire concept of “loving yourself first,” then, seems overwhelmingly self-serving. I was under the impression that love and relationships were about sacrifice.

Compromise!

What happened to the idea of loving someone more than yourself?

But after one year of being single, officially the longest draught of my life without the opposite gender, I’ve come to realize that what I previously thought about love, loving, and being loved wasn’t completely accurate. That the loving, respecting, and taking care of one’s self really is core to being able to selflessly love and give and respect another person completely.

Within this year of solitude, I’ve had more time in my life to reflect and ponder and discover and create and be and live and breathe on my own then ever before.

I’ve appreciated the time off from the typical social game of the twenty-something. It’s been me left to my own devices. Me discovering what makes me tick. Me sharing myself with me, learning me, becoming me. On my own. There’ve been no distractions, nobody to fill my thoughts, no one else’s thoughts to infiltrate, or corrupt, or dilute my own.

And, despite the desperate moments, it’s been amazing.

It’s been hopeful.

Among other things, I’ve come to terms with my physical self. While I’m not a size two, tall, blonde girl, I am much prettier than I, now realize, ever gave myself credit for. I adore my harvest of freckles, my ocean colored eyes, and I love my misshapen body – something that I had previously been so afraid of, so disconnected from, so ashamed of. I’m proud of being a size eight, short, brunette chick.

I’ve come to find that I’m much stronger than I had previously allowed myself to be, both physically and emotionally. I have no problem looking someone in the eye and sans sarcasm (which had been such an easy crutch to fall back on) explain to them when I feel an injustice has been done. I also know that with a little elbow grease, I can move a mountain if I wanted.

I’m smarter than I knew, too; and, while I continue to fight the good fight as college degree-less adult, I find people are frequently impressed with the wealth of life knowledge and skill set I’ve acquired at such a young age.

I am the independent female my parents hoped I would one day be. I don’t ask for help for things I know I can do on my own, despite how difficult it may be. Because I know, in the end, it will both enrich my character and be a wonderful testament to the family who raised me. On the other hand, I ask for help when I’m in over my head, because I know that the humility that I’ll feel is making me a better person.

I can go to the movies without anyone and not feel out of place.

I can sing loudly to music only I can hear when I’m grocery shopping and feel totally secure in my skin.

I can take chances, fail, and smile afterwards.

I can be me.

I really have learned to love myself.

It isn’t psycho-babble at all. It is the excellent first step when trying to figure out who the heck we even are in this world of lots of other people wandering directionless, out of touch with themselves.

The entire idea is neither selfish nor self-righteous; it’s possibly one of the most selfless things I think we can do for ourselves, for the people around us, and for our global community. Can you imagine if the world was filled with people who understood themselves, who appreciated themselves as unique individuals, who were comfortable with exploring their ever evolving natures? I think we’d all be so full of love after making these raw discoveries about ourselves that we’d find any and every outlet we could to try and help others feel the same way.

Which is the dilemma I find myself now facing (and, really, what would life be if we weren’t always forced to tackle something or other in our way of total bliss?).

I love myself. I think I’m awesome.

And I have a right to feel that way.

As a result, I not have all this extra love suddenly spilling out of me that I want to share with other people. And odd as it may seem, I’ve found myself adoring the most random folks in my world as a result. People who I find to be genuine, fascinating, and wonderful human beings of whom I now have innocent, yet totally fun, crushes on. I think this is healthy, I think it’s alright to love one another. It’s a positive, bright thing in a dark, cynical world to appreciate people.

And so, I’d like to announce that . . .

I have a crush on my auto mechanic’s staff. Since my uncle is one of the mechanic’s there, I’ve been going to this shop since I was sixteen when they first discovered what a total failure I was at auto knowledge and general vehicle maintenance. They’re never mean to me and they never try and take advantage of me. There’s this one lady who works there that I really, really adore. One time, when I was seriously down and out financially, she waived the twelve dollar inspection fee and said she’d just tack it on to the next bill. She never did. I want to hug her every time I see her. I wonder if she knows exactly how many times she’s made my day while a frustrated me sat dejectedly in the office waiting to hear how much this newest car ailment would cost. She and the rest of the gang at the mechanics don’t know it, but I love them.

I have a crush on the teenage girl who serves me ice cream at the local shop in my town. This past season they decided that they couldn’t put anything but a “small” on a sugar cone, because other sizes were too much and easily fell off/melted off the cone. I tried to explain to the girls that work there that a) I had been a patron for years, and until then, they’d always put whatever size I wanted on a sugar cone; and b) I was an ice cream eating champion – there was no way the ice cream would fall off. But they wouldn’t do it. One day, this new girl was there, and I told her, “Look, I know you can’t put a medium on a sugar cone, but, what about a small and a half? I’ll pay whatever you want.” From that point on she ALWAYS served me a “small and a half” on a sugar cone (which was more like a “medium and a half”) and charged me for small. She doesn’t know it, but I love her. She makes me happy and gives me hope that not all of our future leaders are going to be brain-washed lemmings.

I have a crush on my neurologist. The first time I met him, after hearing my horrible medical ailments, he actually gave me a hug. “You’re too young,” he said before encouraging me to eat carrot cake. The second time I met him he opened and shut the door quickly like he was hiding from someone, slipped into his chair, and set, “I hate my job. All these old people. They all think there’s something wrong with them. I just want to live my life! I don’t want to be in an office every day, all day, dealing with the same thing from the same people. I want to live!” When I look horrified he said, “But I like you, you’re an interesting case, so I’ll keep working ‘til I can fix you.” And then he told me he was concerned about my sudden weight gain. I blamed it on him and the carrot cake. “Carrot juice woulda worked, too,” he admitted. “Have you had carrot juice recently?” I demanded. “Yes. I love carrot juice,” he stated. “Carrot juice tastes like ass. We’re not friends anymore,” I told him as he escorted me to the front desk. He smiled at me, put a hand on my shoulder and said, “And that’s why I like you. You’re a good one.” He, in what could be the scariest medical situation of my life, makes me feel like everything’s gonna be okay, and that he really is going to try and fix me. And for that, I love him.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – I love the boys at the sandwich shop around the corner who always make my sandwiches bigger than they should; I love the employees at the local hardware store who know I buy plants when I’m sad, and sometimes set aside really unique ones they think I might like; I love my pharmacist lady who thinks I’m pretty when I’m in my sweatpants, but trashy when I’m dressed in my modeling outfits, and in a motherly way, tells me so to my face.

I am so comfortable in my world now, so alive in my life that I can’t help but just feel a little more emotionally, not only for my family and friends, but now for the otherwise “secondary” cast of characters that now seem to be just a vital part of my day to day life.

Furthermore, I’ve come to fully acknowledge and warmly accept that I don’t need someone else to make me happy. I don’t need someone else to encourage me or be the champion of my cause. I don’t need anyone else to fix the broken pieces of my world. I can do that. I can do all of that.

I’ve figured out how to be emotionally self-sufficient, and that’s a good thing.

When the time comes for me to date again I know that I’ll be the best girlfriend I can authentically be. And I owe that to learning how to appreciate, respect, understand, and love myself first. Without being able to have had, and to continue to have, this time of self-discovery which leads to self-awareness and self-improvement, I wouldn’t now be so full of this genuine, raw love.

So, take this piece of advice, this nutty psycho-babble, reinforced by just another broken-hearted sap who’s read one too many self-help books in her desperate attempt for some kind of balm for her aching soul: learn to love yourself.

And then revel in loving everybody else.